The rise of Hernan Bas


At 45 years old, Hernan BAS is among the most sought-after painters of his generation and already has four auction results above the million-dollar threshold to his name, including one hammered in 2023. His paintings of solitary young men – currently showing at the Bass Museum in Miami (his hometown) – bear witness to a highly developed style reflecting a great many influences. Most of his works focus on a more or less androgynous persona.

These personas are solitary young men with androgynous silhouettes that emanate a certain vulnerability and melancholic distance. Surfing on adolescent identity crises and the transition to adulthood, Bas’s subjects embody a fragile in-between state that the artist refers to as “fag limbo.” But beyond the subjects themselves, the paintings exude a certain atmosphere of ridiculous discomfort, his ephebes finding themselves immersed in falsely banal situations, bright colors and surreal contexts. This is because Bas gives full sway to his imagination, an imagination nourished, among other things, by his fascination with the literary and artistic culture of the end of the 19th century.

Comparisons with the work of Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard, Odilon Redon and Caspar David Friedrich are often cited, but also connections with more Contemporary artists like Elizabeth Peyton and Peter Doig.

In addition to references to visual artists (past and present), his paintings also invoke the decadent writings of Joris-Karl Huysmans and Oscar Wilde and the erotic images of men on the covers of men’s fashion magazines. Bas’s world thus fuses historical culture, Pop culture and other very personal interests such as occult subjects, tales, legends, mythology and even paranormal phenomena.

Hernan Bas’s auction annual turnover (copyright

Career and market prices

Born in Miami, Florida in 1978, Hernan Bas grew up in a family of Cuban immigrants, his mother and musician father having moved to the United States after Castro came to power. Eager to practice painting from a very young age (he painted his first painting around the age of ten), he attended the rigorous New World School of the Arts high school in Miami, studying for a semester at Cooper Union in New York, then returned to Miami in 1997 to work for the Rubell Family Collection, influential collectors who spotted his talent during his first exhibition at Miami Dade College in 2000. The Rubells were thus the first to support his work, purchasing several works that they subsequently exhibited in their Miami space.

Bas’s career took off from Florida before spreading to New York, Paris and London in 2004. That same year, he caused a sensation at the Whitney Museum Biennial in New York, while the famous Victoria Miro gallery hosted a solo exhibition of his work in London. The artist is still represented by Victoria Miro in the UK, while also being supported (for around ten years) by the Lehmann Maupin in the United States and by Galerie Perrotin in France. His work has therefore been presented at major international art fairs for around twenty years thanks to the support of these three galleries, and his pictorial work has been followed by influential collectors for a long time. His works have also been included in major public collections, including those of the New York MoMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and Samuso: Space for Contemporary Art in Seoul.

Bas’s work made its auction debut in May 2006 at Phillips de Pury & Company in New York with three works, the largest of which fetched $90,000 against an estimated range of $40,000 – $60,000. Then, in November of the same year, his Dionysus bestowing Midas his touch reached $168,000. In the years that followed, his market stabilized without any particularly strong speculative buying. Although regularly offered in auction rooms, collectors remained selective and cautious and refrained from rushing at all the lots. At the beginning of the 2010s, his prices more or less remained within their estimated ranges: around $30,000 for an 80 cm work and around $20,000 for a 30 cm work.

Hernan Bas’s unsold rate (copyright

In 2014, Hernan Bas’s rare large formats managed to fetch over $100,000 and in 2018, his painting With Stupid (2011) crossed the $200,000 threshold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong. Demand strengthened over the following years with his sold-through rates gradually increasing. In 2020, Bas’s works were exhibited in all four corners of the globe – Miami, Hong Kong, South Korea, New York, Paris, Zurich, Venice – and auction bidding clearly became more enthusiastic in 2021: several of his works generated healthy six-figure results and his Night Flight or Midnight Migration, or My Merry Way (2008) fetched $746,000 in New York against an estimate of $200,000. A few months later, Bas became one of the rare Contemporary artists to elicit bidding above the $1 million threshold.

Progression of Hernan Bas’s auction price record

$90,000 in May 2006: For You it has come to This, Phillips de Pury & Company, New York

$168,000 in November 2006: Dionysus Bestowing Midas his Touch, Phillips de Pury & Company, New York

$270,800 in April 2018: With Stupid, Sotheby’s, Hong Kong

$746,000 in November 2021: Night Flight or Midnight Migration, Sotheby’s, New York

$1.25 million in May 2022: The Overly Prepped Boy, Christie’s, Hong Kong

$2.68 million in November 2022: The Dawn Of Modernity, Holly International, Hong Kong


Indeed, Hong Kong hammered Bas’s first $million+ result for his The Overly Prepped Boy (or The Approaching Glacier) (2010) which sold for $1.2 million, i.e. 64% above Christie’s high estimate in May 2022. Three other 7-digit results followed, the last of which, recorded in March 2023, was also hammered in Hong Kong, which has now become Bas’s most successful sales platform, as indeed is the case today for many Contemporary Western artists.

Geography of Hernan Bas’s auction turnover since 2020 (copyright


Exhibition “Hernan Bas. The Conceptualists”

Bass Museum, Miami

Until 5 May 2024